book related, Gift suggestions

Bookish Christmas gift ideas

It’s getting towards final posting dates now, but here are some ideas for the bookish person in your life this Christmas.

Let’s start with the obvious: a voucher to buy books. Don’t know what books I want or more likely which books from my list my mum has already bought me (hi mum!) – then get me a book token. My store of choice is Foyles – but they only do physical gift cards so if you’ve already missed the posting date you might need to go for a National Book Token or Waterstones who do physical and e-cards.

Or you could think about the books that your bookish person likes and get something related. For example my love of Terry Pratchett is well documented – and I’m not the only one in my family who loves the Discworld, so the Discworld Emporium might be your friend – I have some Assassins Guild socks (very cool) and they also do very good jigsaws. If they are a very special person in your life, then check out Paul Kidby’s website – he’s the official illustrator and I treated myself to a print of his Errol illustration earlier this year and it is beautiful.

And the same applies to a lot of other fandoms – I have a Background Slytherin print in the kitchen from Emily McGovern which I’ve had for years and really love and although she doesn’t do that print any more there are some really cool things in her shop. Then if you’re in the US, out of print are great – or at least they were last time I ordered from them, which is *gulp* four years when I was last over there but they have plenty of book-related apparel. And you can sometimes find stuff stocked over here.

And then you can always have a wander around Etsy and the craftier side of internet shopping – I’ve got a very cool quote I quote printed on a page from a French dictionary that I picked up online, and a cool book shaped USB light that I got given a few years back. All in all, plenty of options for you.

Good luck!

book related, books

Recommendsday: December Kindle Offers

So it’s the end of the year – which means it’s the run up to Christmas AND the best books of the year season, so the offers this month are a strange mix.

Lets start with the Christmas stuff. Last week’s series post was about a Sarah Morgan series – and her Christmas book for this year, Snowed in for Christmas, is 99p this month. My former Novelicious colleague Cressida McLauglin also has a Christmas book on offer – The Cornish Cream Tea Bookshop is 99p and there’s also a Jenny Colgan Christmas novel – Christmas at the Island Hotel – which is in her Mure series. One of my favourite Christmas novels from previous years is on offer too – Christina Lauren’s In a Holidaze is sort of Groundhog Day meets festive rom com and I really enjoyed it.

It’s not strictly Christmas – but it has had a festive rejacket/recover, so it makes a nice segue through to the other stuff – Rev Richard Coles’ cozy crime debut Murder Before Evensong is 99p. I included it a Recommendsday about Mysteries with Vicars back in the summer, and a second Canon Clement book is due in June (and a third also planned!).

Mrs England Cover

In the best books of the year type stuff, a bunch of the award winners or nominees from the last few years are on offer – like Jonathan Freedland’s The Escape Artist and Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain. Stacey Halls’ Mrs England is on offer again – and the wintery Yorkshire setting would make it a great fireside read if you need one. It would be atmospheric at this time of years – but more I cannot say for fear of spoilers – but you can see a review in the July Mini Reviews. Sara Collins’ The Confessions of Frannie Langton is also 99p – which I really enjoyed back in 2019. I also wrote a whole post about Philippa Gregory’s Tudor books – and The Other Boleyn Girl is also on offer this month. And another one I’ve written a tonne about is Theranos – Bad Blood, the book by John Carreyrou that started it all is 99p this month. Read it before you watch the TV series.

This months’ Terry Pratchett is Unseen Academicals at £1.99, the Hamish MacBeth is Death of a Green-eyed Monster and the Agatha Raisin is Dishing the Dirt. The 99p Georgette Heyer is my beloved These Old Shades, but it’s sequel Devil’s Cub and my beloved Masqueraders are among the £1.99 ones at the moment. If you want some historical romance that has been written a bit more recently, The Lady Most Willing a joint novel by Bridgerton’s Julia Quinn, Eloisa James and Connie Brockaway is a bargain at the moment too. The Peter Wimsey are the very first in the series, Whose Body and The Collected Short Stories, which I think I own twice in paperback. Or at least I own some of the stories in it at least twice. Also in series, the latest Maisie Dobbs, A Sunlit Weapon is £1.49, and To Die But Once and The American Agent are £1.99 which is a good price for this series.

And as ever there are also a few things that I bought while putting this together – The Kiss Curse, the next in Erin Sterling’s series that started with The Ex Hex, Delilah Green Doesn’t Care by Ashley Herring Blake (I think it’s on offer because the next in the series has just come out).

Happy Wednesday everyone!

book related

Books Incoming: November edition

A very restrained collection this month – and no, that’s not because I’m posting this earlier in the month – the time between last month’s photo and this months is the same as it usually is – it’s the posting schedule that’s gone wonky because I wanted to post the Gatwick photos before they got super out of date and so the books incoming slid back. Anyway, I’ve already read Mansion for Murder – and Murder on a Summer’s day was my treat to myself this week in Foyles. It’s earlier in the Kate Shackleton series, but it’s one I haven’t read. Then there’s another Foyles impulse buy in Park Avenue Summer (set at Cosmopolitan magazine in the mid-1960s, how could I resist!) and Oh, What a Lovely Century is one I’ve had my eye on for a while, but that turned up on the charity bookshelf at work, so I donated my money and picked it up. Yay me.

Have a great weekend everyone.

book related

Books in the Wild: Euston

The Christmas displays are out and I’ve had a nosy at what they’re promoting front and centre in the Euston WH Smith…

And it is all about the memoirs! This is the main promo table as you come in. I know some of this is likely to be paid placement but it still sort of fascinates me that a Korean book in translation has made this table. It has also reminded me that I own I Want To Die But I Want to Eat Tteokpokki and should get around to reading it!

And the other big thing is that a) Bono has a book out and b) it’s half price. Everything else in here was pretty much as I was expecting, with all the usual suspects from my recent bookshop trips, but Bono was new, by the door and explains why he popped up on an NPR podcast in my feed at the weekend (I didn’t listen).

And that’s it – happy Saturday everyone.

book related

Books in the Wild: Sainsbury’s Colchester

Did I do a sweep of the supermarket book selection when I was in Essex last week. Of course I did. Was it super weird that the Sainsbury’s I used to shop in was knocked down a decade ago and there’s a completely new one a little bit across and they’ve completely rearranged all the roads at the retail park I used to go to on the way home from work? Absolutely. Did I feel really old? Yes. Did I also recreate my old commute by playing the music I used to have in my CD player back then? Ummmm. Does this mean I have had There Once Was A Man from The Pajama Game stuck in my head for more than a week? Yes.

Let’s start with the Christmas memoirs – which is basically what the hardback section is at the moment – including the Richard E Grant I read on holiday and the Alan Rickman that I’m torn about whether I want to read or not – although to be fair there’s also the Big Name Fiction, including the Michael Ball that I’m reading at the moment.

That mix of celeb Christmas book and other stuff sort of carries on in this one – which isn’t even the adjacent case but I’m going with it. I mean the organisation of this is all not great – but here’s a couple of my favourite books of the year again – Lessons in Chemistry and Murder Before Evensong – but also Carrie Soto which I really need to finish… and then the new Rukmini Iyer cookbook which is on my Christmas list!

I’m including this one because it has The Dead Romantics in it, which is one of my favourite books from this month, but also a much older Trisha Ashley in what I think must be at least it’s second rerelease/rejacketing because it was a rerelease when I bought it back in my later post-Colchester Essex era.

And finally here’s the paperback fiction and the rest of the cookbooks. Love on the Brain, Book Lovers and Malibu Rising would all make good Christmas present books – if (like me) you don’t buy only Christmas themed books for festive gifts.

And that’s your lot today. I leave you with the only video I could find of Kelli O’Hara and Harry Connick doing There Once Was A Man, which isn’t the same as the cast recording version as it’s much more jazzy, but it is still excellent.

Have an amazing Saturday everyone.

book related, Children's books

Book Conference 2022!

Four years ago now I wrote a post about my weekend at the Bristol Book Conference. We should have been back there in 2020, but we all know what happened in 2020 so it’s been four years before my second weekend of fun and frolics with other aficionados of Twentieth Century Books for Girls. As you saw yesterday I came home with a big old pile of books, but what else did we get up to?

Well the theme this time was Eccentrics, Oddballs and Misfits and as there are plenty of those in these books there was plenty to talk about! Gum from Ballet Shoes got a mention, and we had a whole talk on the basically insane Oeuvre of Rita Coutts – it sounded so mad I bought myself one to see for myself!

As you know my gateway books to the genre were The Chalet School, Drina and Sadlers Wells – which were the series that were still in print in paperback when I was about the right age. So one of the joys for me is discovering new to me authors that were already collectible hardbacks when I was little.

But also it’s talking to the people. There are not many people that I can make jokes about singing people better out of comas with, but this weekend there were nearly 100 of them! And they all want to talk to you about their favourite book or tell you why you’re wrong to thing that Professor Richardson (who single handed builds his own rocket to try to fly to the moon) is the most eccentric character in the genre…

Anyway, it was a wonderful weekend -even if my team didn’t win the quiz – and we’ve already made some suggestions for possible talks in 2024. Oh and I’ve got a new WhatsApp group of friends to chat to. Delightful.

book related, books

Books in the wild: Waterstones Birmingham

Firstly, I’m sure the Birmingham Waterstones used to be in a charming old building – that used to be a bank or something like that. But the building I thought it was is now an Apple store and so I’m doubting myself. Anyway the current Waterstones is near the Bullring and I had a little wander on Friday to see what they’re promoting and displaying.

Let’s start with the big display as you come in – which has Jessie Burtons – old and new, the new Juno Dawson book , the Richard Coles that I wrote about the other week and the latest book in a thriller series that is clearly going to be too scary and violent for me!

On the other side, we’ve got the non-fiction selections – I haven’t read any of them, but I’ve got The Premonitions Bureau on the Kindle, as I thought it might appeal to the part of me that enjoyed The Haunting of Alma Fielding the other year. Then there’s Clubland, which I hadn’t heard of, but which is a history of working men’s clubs in the UK and which sounds interesting, although my to read pile is so huge that I can wait for it! I hadn’t come across The Escape Artist either, but that also sounds interesting- about the first Jewish man to break out of Auschwitz and tried to warn the world about what was going on there. Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before is a mental health toolkit type book which again sounds interesting and Cry of the Kalahari is presumably there because the film of Where the Crawdad’s Sing has just come out and it’s by Delia Owens and her husband about their life in Africa (and which there have been a number of articles about recently).

A number of books I have written about previously have now made it to the buy one get one half price table – notably Fatal Crossing and The Man Who Died Twice. I’m also somewhat intrigued by the Her Majesty the Queen Investigates series – A Three Dog Problem is the second one, but I’ve been looking out for the first at the library.

The non fiction table was where I spotted a few more things – I’ve got the hardback version of Judith Mackrell‘s Going With The Boys, which I really need to get to because I’ve enjoyed her other group biographies (hence my purchase!). I hadn’t heard of Oh What A Lovely Century before – but Roderic Fenwick Owen’s edited Diaries sound right up my street – born in 1921, he went to Eton and Oxford, survived the Second World War and then became a travel writer. The blurb promises that he experienced Nazi Germany and the Pentagon during the Cold War and met people like Jackson Pollack and Sean Connery. He was also attracted to men at a time when it was still illegal in many places. The few pages I read were interesting enough that I nearly bought it – except that it’s a chunky old thing and I didn’t want to have to carry it around in my handback getting battered for the rest of the day. I will be watching out for it.

And there we are – a rare bookshop trip where I didn’t buy anything – but still managed to add a few more books to the list…

book adjacent, book related

Book adjacent: Magpie Murders

Something a bit different today – and I’ve been watching the TV adaptation of Anthony Horowitz’s novel Magpie Murders. I read the book back when it first came out and I really enjoyed it – but had no idea how they would manage to turn it into a TV series, so I got myself a Britbox subscription especially to watch it!

In case you haven’t read the book, a reminder of the plot: Susan Ryeland has been editing the Atticus Pünd novels for years. The series’s author, Alan Conway is not her favourite person, but she puts up with him because the series has been incredibly popular with fans of the Queens of Crime. But when she reads the latest manuscript, not only is the end missing, but she’s convinced that Conway has hidden another story within his new novel.

Now, what the book blurb doesn’t tell you, but the TV trailer does, is that Alan Conway ends up dead and that as she searches for the missing chapter, she’s also trying to figure out who killed him. I had no clue how they were going to make this work on screen because of the book-within-a-book nature of the story but it really clicks – with cast doubling their roles and different filters on the camera to make it even easier to tell the two apart – as well as the different costumes for the different time periods. I was a bit sceptical about whether the adaptation really needed six parts but it turns out that it sort of did – because there is a lot of plot with two parallel mysteries to a solve and not a lot to cut. Anthony Horowitz has adapted this himself from his novel -and it really works. As you can see from the trailer, a lot of the cast play two roles – the real people who knew Alan and their fictional equivalents in the book.

There are a lot of familiar faces in the cast and the performances are great. Lesley Manville makes a great Susan – tenacious about trying to find the missing chapter of the book, but guarded and prickly about her personal life. I’m not a Game of Thrones viewer, so I’m not sure I’d seen Conleth Hill in anything before I saw him in Holding, and then here he is again in this turning in another great – but very different – performance. I really hope they do the second in the series, The Moonflower Murders, and I also really hope that Horowitz writes a third. He does have two meta-murder mystery series though, and he seems to be doing more with the Hawthorne books – which is even more meta as a fictional version of Horowitz is in that one. I really can’t imagine how they would do a TV version of that. But I said that with the Atticus Pund series, so what do I know! There is a fourth Hawthorne book coming this summer which I’m already looking forward to reading.

As I said at the top, this one is on Britbox, which you can get direct from them or as an add-on to an Amazon Prime subscription. You get a seven days free trial, and there are a couple of other Britbox originals that I fancy having a look at, so I’ve gone beyond the trial for now!


book related

The return of In Person book events

I’ve suddenly started to get a slew of emails through again for in person book events! I’m so excited. I’ve met some wonderful friends through author fandoms – and at author events of various kinds. And one of the last events that I went to before the End of the Beforetimes (although I didn’t know it then!) was Ben Aaronovitch at Foyles and I can’t wait to hear some people talking about their books again!

And Ben is doing another event there for the next Rivers of London book too – I’ve already got a copy of the book preordered, but I haven’t ruled out going to this on April 11th as well! He’s also doing a bunch of events around the country – including at my old favourite indie cinema – City Screen in my beloved York.

Not strictly a book – but being held at the British Library is HistFest. I did the online version of this last year and it was really good. You can also attend online this year and you can either book a weekend or day pass or the sessions individually. I’m really interested in The House of Dudley – which is tied into a new book – and also The City of Tears about the St Bartholomew’s day massacre, which I studied at uni.

I do quite like the dual in person and online events that we’re seeing now – I’ve got my eye on the online stream for the VE Schwab event that Waterstones have happening on Friday, but Friday nights are a little tricky for me. Waterstones also have an in person only event with Natasha Solomons next week which is a bit tempting if I can make my office schedule work for it.

There are a couple of local (to me) indies who do events too – but as they require a little bit of extra planning as well as some petrol – I haven’t got anything booked in yet. And of course the next thing I’m hoping for is there to be another Sarah MacLean meet up this summer…